Evil

Dr Evil square  After I left religion, it didn’t take long for me to realize that evil was good. Oops. Did I just write that out loud? I imagine some of my atheist readers are scratching their heads, wondering if I’ve finally gone bonkers, catapulted into sheer madness, perhaps by the very lively conversation that followed last week’s blog post. And way over yonder in the virtual distance, I can pick up a nearly audible victory hiss from another segment of my readership. “I knew she was a devil worshipper!” they whisper, consoled by their newfound explanation for my blog (which they are mysteriously drawn to.)  Yes, I publicly admit that evil can be good. But wait. Let me explain.

When I made the life-changing decision to leave religion, it was not just a “rip off the Band-Aid moment,” a clean goodbye. Religion had infiltrated my social life, my feelings of self-worth, my relationship with society and, surprisingly, even my language. In two earlier blog posts, Language and Gratitude, I discuss the complexities of replacing “Christianese” with words and phrases that support truth. Both articles touched on positive and uplifting terms, such as thank God, or have faith, phrases that seemed well-meaning, but no longer reflected the exact messages I wished to convey.

During this revamping of my language, I realized that there was another dimension to the issue, a separate set of terms and phrases I would have to be willing to scratch from my repertoire as a self-respecting skeptic. These weren’t the terms rooted in “godliness,” (which I found I was able to replace with relative ease). These words were from the dark side.

I was happy to get rid of the word sin. Even during my time as a Christian, that word felt like nails on a chalkboard, or ketchup on a hotdog. (Hey. I’m from Chicago.) Hell was another biggie, and slightly more complicated to surrender. I guess I was always rational enough to know, deep down, that hell didn’t exist. However, the concept of hell came in handy. Surely there had to be some sort of punishment in store for the rapists, the murderers, the abusers that got away with their cruel acts here on Earth. There had to be hell to pay, even if it boiled down to mere emotional torment at the moment of death. Hell is the word you pull out when you need a snarling bulldog to scare away your deepest fears. “Don’t worry,” the big old bulldog snarls, “They’ll pay for what they did.”

And then somehow, you get up the next morning. Even though children were shot.

But the toughest word to let go of, the one I admittedly struggled with, was the mac daddy of all religious words, the pinnacle on which every religion is gently and precariously cradled…the word evil. Because yes, evil is everything terrible. It is the deliciously creepy term that encompasses everything from the fabled fall of man, to the villains in Disney movies, to the very real horrors that haunt our waking hours and disturb our dreams. It embraces even the mythical notions of eternal hellfire, or the cold, black waters of the River Styx. Evil is bad, bad, bad.

But when I had evil in my world, I had a neat little box wherein I could file those horrible things. Child rapists wouldn’t possibly exist if it weren’t for evil. Kidnappings and abuse, exploitation of minors, modern day slavery… things I could barely stand to think about were stamped, sealed, and tucked into that box, where they could be dealt with later, by someone else. The lump in my throat was gone, and I could breathe because I could face this beast called evil. I could understand it. I could fight against it, with the supernatural powers of good. I could dismiss it. I could rest assured that there would be hell to pay. I didn’t have to bear the burden of advocating for change. I didn’t have to own up to collective mistakes made, or opportunities missed, because nothing was my fault. I was on the side of good.  I was a chosen one. No matter what I did, evil would always exist in the world. It would always be there to help me make sense of the unimaginable, without any personal investment in change. In that way, evil was very, very good.

The word has circulated relentlessly since the massacre at Stoneman Douglas. Some define evil as “bad, wrong, vile, depraved.”  I can see how the term, when used with that secular definition, is a good descriptor of the recent tragedy. However, I have proposed abandoning this term because unfortunately, its broader use encompasses a spiritual definition and one that comes with a heavy price.  When religion permeates the definition of a word that later evolves to label a social issue, an individual, or a societal concern with the purpose of “condemning” “explaining away,” boxing in,” or “punishing accordingly,” definitions do matter. Historically, the Christian use of the term evil implies the involvement of a dark, spiritual concern that no remedy beyond a divine one can possibly address. It would make sense that believers in the supernatural would choose supernatural intervention (read: prayer) over action if the assumption is they are up against evil. It just wouldn’t make sense to battle Leviathan with legislation.

Before you say, “It’s just a word. What does it matter?” Let’s take a quick glimpse into the dark underworld of semantics.

For a period of about 200 years, women went untreated for conditions as severe as epilepsy and schizophrenia because almost any unusual symptom (in women only) was attributed to the general term hysteria.

The word sinister is derived from the Latin term for “left.” Due to several passages in the Bible that speak negatively about the left side, lefties have been persecuted throughout history, suffering everything from forced “conversion,” to burning, and even execution.

In the Bible, blindness, muteness, lameness and bodily deformity, as well as psychological issues were attributed to demons. What’s more surprising is that many people still believe in demonic possession and prefer to treat conditions that clearly require medical intervention, with “supernatural weapons” of prayer and fasting. Autism is still being treated by exorcism, even here in the United States.

In the same way, when we sweep perpetrators, tragedies, political issues, and psychotic disorders under this superstitious and fantastical umbrella of evil, we are denying treatment, prevention, action, and awareness to those who need it. If you manage to forget everything else I’ve talked about today, please keep that sentence in your mind. I made it extra-long not to torture you, but because I still love commas.

My secondary reason for opting against the term evil is that it can be twisted and shaped to meet the depraved definition of anyone who chooses to use it. For example, Hitler (who many would see as the embodiment of evil) used the term to his advantage when he labeled Jews “evil” and the “personification of the devil.” It’s not a precise term with a concrete definition. It enables the speaker to manipulate and persuade populations, at times with devastating results.

The first step towards acting responsibly is embracing truth. When we muddle truth, using terminology heavily-laden with superstition, antiquated and disproven assumptions, we relinquish our greatest weapon of self-defense: knowledge.

In closing, I’d like to thank all of my readers for their contributions to last week’s conversation. I know that each of us reacts to and expresses grief in unique ways. I admit I was feistier than usual when I posted my message on guns, but I needed to “say some stuff,” so I did. Despite some polarized opinions in the comments, I found them quite entertaining. I look forward to your thoughts on evil.

Aaaaaaand………….go.

 

 

 

84 thoughts on “Evil

  1. It’s tough to hold onto things that rely on religious underpinnings. For me, good and evil are terribly subjective things, often called upon for the sake of argument rather than taking a moral stand. They demean the concept of morality, and the effort that goes into trying to figure out what people should and shouldn’t do. Right now we can all agree that something is terrible, but what use is it if in a hundred years everyone’s doing that very thing?

    Sure, some religious people will claim that what they preach is necessary to avoid such consequences, but history doesn’t exactly support those claims. If anything, it shows we’ve got a lot of growing up to do. We need to teach people why some things are wrong with as much efficiency and certainty as we teach them how to read or write.

    But in order to teach, one must learn first.

    Liked by 7 people

    1. Exactly, Sirius. That’s why I think it’s so important to choose words that provide direction for action. “Mentally unstable,” “addicted,” and “sociopathic,” are three conditions that would require completely different approaches to treatment. Labeling them as “evil” only muddies truth and delays action. Thanks for commenting! 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I agree with your post about words, although I admit to occasionally saying them in their secular connotation.
    But the bottom line really is getting people away from religion because it does make one incapable of using reason and logic to tackle societal problems. And it keeps judgementalism and ostracism rampant in our world. It’s a thing that divides us and is used by the power and money brokers to control the masses.

    Oh yes and they do use words, especially evil, hell and sin. And let’s not forget their perversion of the word “saved.” Another word is “abomination” they particularly like to use against gays.

    For me, it’s the underlying intent to feel superior and chosen by using these various words and phrases.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Good point, Mary. You actually hit on another word I was never able to embrace, “saved.” Even when I was fairly convinced of the whole resurrection story, the word “saved” just felt so self-righteous to me. Thanks for commenting!

      Liked by 3 people

  3. Indeed, the word “evil” is inextricably linked with religion and it is widely used to demonize perceived enemies. The concept is incredibly dangerous and destructive.

    In debates with religious and non-religious people who insist that evil actually exists, I often ask them if evil would still exist in the absence of humans (who created the concept, IMO). To put it another way, had humans never existed on Earth, could other animals be evil? The question is perplexing for such folks because the answer is not only apparent, it also poses irresolvable philosophical problems for them.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. True. But I also think that many religious people simply believe that humans are evil. We’re born that way. That’s why we need a savior, to rid us of that innate “evil.” That’s a pretty messed up system, if you ask me. It’s like “intelligently designing” a car factory that’s automatically going to produce lemons that need immediate and constant repair. It does make you wonder how, in the same breath, they claim that God’s creation is perfect. 😉

      Liked by 5 people

      1. I recently presented a similar argument to a “pastor” and after a few exchanges his final response was:

        “Ron, I was going to answer every erroneous point you made here but, frankly, I’m getting tired of this so I will just cut to the chase. Your whole line of argumentation about perfectionism is fallacious, vacuous, and absurd.”

        Liked by 3 people

      2. Ron, too often I get the same end result: a vague very general remark that is much more personal OPINION than it is substantiated or constructive for the sake of civil debate. Several times with pastors, or evangy-fundy Xians the discussion gets so lost in language and talking around the core issue(s) that I must tell them I don’t NEED to discuss endless rabbit-trails of personal Xian interpretations of Christology from other rabbit-trails of Christology… when there is simply the 4th century CE Canonical New Testament!

        Then they sort of shut up. LOL 😛

        Liked by 3 people

      3. There is only ONE language that is used among believers. It’s called “Christianese.” And if you try to explain anything to them using any other language, it goes right over their head. Witness the conversations at “In My Father’s House.”

        Liked by 2 people

      4. But that’s their end game, isn’t it?

        “You don’t know the scriptures.”
        “You’re using the wrong translation.”
        “You have to study the orignal Greek/Hebrew text.”
        “You aren’t using the correct hermeneutics.”

        And my favorite:
        “You can’t interpret it correctly without the guidance of the Holy Spook.”

        They commit you to an endless game of their apologetic Whac-a-Mole until you finally get tired of it and give up.

        Liked by 3 people

      5. Yes, and that is what I alluded to. Even religious fundamentalists, as simply human beings having common emotional connections with other creatures, would be faced with that philosophical quandary. If only people are evil, and people are God’s great creation, then how can God be perfect?

        Liked by 4 people

  4. Evil has no special relevance for me as I am not in the least bit religious.
    It is a word used by the religious and also normal people across the board, but its meaning to each group is very different.
    The religious have co-opted the word and see it as the ultimate ‘bad’, and by this we can only mean influenced in some way by the Devil. EeeeeK!

    So, if you do not believe in gods and (in context) the christian god then the term evil is just a word that has no special significance.

    Is that an evil smell coming from my laptop? Ah …. Branyan must be lurking.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Wait! Are you implying that being called a vile, evil, immoral, corrupt, wicked, depraved, sinister, wretched, demonic, sinful, reprobate person whose good deeds are like filthy rags fails to lift your sense of self-worth? How can that be? I mean, what else could God possibly say to express his love for humanity? 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

  6. Danica,

    This is a GREAT POST Ma’am!!! In your paragraphs about getting “Evil” into your manageable box, you absolutely nailed it and inferred the sheer passivity that most forms of Christianity create and nurture in individuals and Christian groups! How? Because through spending so much time and energy gathering in churches, homes, and “special Xian” events, praying, and doing all those things that pay homage to a ficticious deity… fewer TANGIBLE things gets done or nowhere done in MORE efficient time. This leads me to another point:

    The Christian god — and arguably the Judaic and Muslim god too — and the worship and lifestyle His holy bible teaches and demands, creates two more problems for society and the individual… 1) disempowerment, particularly on the individual level, and 2) unaccountability because of all the energy and time expended to a fictious deity relieves the individual/group of total ownership of words and behavior; it’s tossed upon Christ’s blood.

    When we muddle truth, using terminology heavily-laden with superstition, antiquated and disproven assumptions, we relinquish our greatest weapon of self-defense: knowledge.

    Ooooooo… that is so profoundly right Danica! Then if I may please add-on to “Knowledge,” in order to BETTER understand how that knowledge is acquired or not acquired, we now have the scientific field of Agnotology. A/Some definitions of the word:

    The study of ignorance provides a new theoretical perspective to broaden traditional questions about “how we know” to ask, Why don’t we know what we don’t know? […]

    …ignorance is often more than just an absence of knowledge; it can also be the outcome of cultural and political struggles. Ignorance has a history and a political [and religious!] geography, but there are also things people don’t want you to know (“Doubt is our product” is the tobacco industry slogan). Other examples? The realms of global climate change, military secrecy, female orgasm, environmental denialism [John BrainYawn’s chronic condition], Native American paleontology, theoretical archaeology, racial ignorance, and more.

    With this in mind, Evil and morality, ethics, sympathy, empathy, altruism, etc, can (not always) be defined through epigenetic rules/principles passed from 50,000 – 75,000 years transgenerationally through our parents, our parents families, our cultural birth-place, youth and teen years, and all the other cultures and experiences that over that huge span of time our ancestors traversed, finally reaching you. All through this process Evil and forms of Evil come and go, hopefully diminishing every decade and/or century. 🙂 ❤

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The study of ignorance. Who knew? I will definitely investigate that. And I agree that “evil” has a long trajectory and varies by culture, time period, etc. When used in a historical, educational, or fictitious context, I like the word. It’s only when it’s misused as a label that it truly lives up to its name and poses a threat to all of us.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. A threat? To ALL of us? Hmmm, since my wonderful deconversion I find “Evil” not to be anything like the monster Faith-followers make it out to be. I simply see humans behaving badly or VERY badly for simple or complex reasons. And MUCH of the bad is absolutely treatable, cureable, or stoppable. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Well, maybe it didn’t come through, but I meant mislabeling things, especially as “evil” is a threat, since it dodges actionable truth. Too poetic, perhaps? And I’m only on my first drink. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Hahahahaha!!! I just started MY 2nd drink as well! How funny.

        No, I was half-being silly just to make my point that when you show too much fear to something or someone, sometimes (often?) IT feeds off of that and puts its claws and ball-n-chain onto you.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. VERY INTRIGUING! Thought you might like to check out the attached essay, which contains the following quote: “The interesting thing about “evil” is that it wasn’t so bad when it was young. In fact, the root of “evil,” the Indo-European “upelo,” meant merely “exceeding proper bounds” or “uppity.” Even in Old English, “evil” was used as a fairly bland, general-purpose negative word….”
    http://www.word-detective.com/2010/09/good-god-evil-and-devil/

    Liked by 4 people

  8. So, I’ve noticed that you contrasted “Evil” with “Depraved” in the OP at the end about Hitler. I’m not sure how “depraved” is better than “evil” in your estimation. I tend to think that “depraved” is even more Christianese than evil ^_^

    Also, I get the gist that you are looking for a sense of progress without the concept of Evil. I understand that it is possible to hold these two beliefs, but I’m interested in your brief explanation of how you do.

    I enjoyed your post and do very much agree that the semantics we use are very important.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Dylan. I latched onto the word “evil” this week, because it seems to be the one that goes into circulation every time there’s a mass shooting. There is a portion of the country that simply uses the term as a descriptor for the tragedy. I understand, because a strong word is required. It’s when the term trickels into the arena of action and prevention that it poses a problem. If we are using the Christian definition of evil, only supernatural intervention can help. In essence, more people calling a preventable tragedy or a treatable disease “evil” equals more people praying about it, instead of taking action. We can see micro-examples of this when some believers opt for exorcism or prayer over treatable conditions like autism and epilepsy. After mass shootings, instead of the terms “prayer” and “evil” I would like to see more accurate descriptions of the problem and words that invoke action towards a solution. Here are some “poor legistlation,” “inaction” “mental instablility” “bipolar disorder” “schizophrenia” “security measures,” “medical intervention” “technological advances.” Those are terms I would like to see more, in a first-world country, and in the year 2018, when responding to tragedy and a national crisis.

      Again, thanks so much for reading and commenting!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hmmm, I think I get what you’re saying – you’d like to see solution focused language. The challenge that needs to be overcome then, is finding the words that are solutions that people agree on and don’t offend any demographics.

        Clearly things like “poor legislation” are flamebait – which maybe isn’t a regressive tactic when used well. However, in a culture that is overrun with overreaction and misuse of buzzwords, it is easy to imagine this being overemphasized and used out of context, creating even more political division. Still probably one of the better alternatives you’ve suggested.

        For example of offense, you used several mental health terms. I can tell you those words when used as jargon surrounding a mass shooting can be very offensive to people with those diagnoses who have absolutely no inclination to go out an harm others (which is the VAST majority of people with those diagnoses). While the mental illness deprecation is perhaps just a personal peeve of mine, I’m sure there are other issues that offend other people. It’s fair to try them out, but be careful if you think you’re going to convince others of a solution without first driving a few people away.

        Thanks for the response ^_^.

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      2. And thank you for your very relevant additions to the conversation! 🙂 And for clarity, I only meant applying the terms on an individual level, when appropriate, hopefully during the prevention stage. I see your point about not wanting to add to the stigma of any mental condition. There would definitely be some complexities to tease out. I do believe that awareness is always better than “blanket” terminology, though, especially terminology that comes heavily-laden with superstitious connotations. Have a wonderful rest of your weekend, and hope you stop by to share more tidbits of wisdom!

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    2. In times of social crisis, not addressing the root problems and putting band-aids on our open wounds might make us feel better but it won’t solve anything. And, this is precisely why America is now plagued with worsening mass shootings.

      Labeling Nikolas Cruz (the Florida shooter) as “evil” conveniently absolves us as a society of any responsibility. It sends the message that we are okay, and that this young man was just a rogue who succumbed to supernatural forces beyond our control.

      Likewise, ignoring his obvious mental health issues for the sake of not offending or stigmatizing mentally ill people is another convenience we simply cannot afford. If the medical profession expects a cancer patient to acknowledge their physical condition as the first step towards treatment, then it should also do the same for patients with psychological conditions.

      America is at a crossroads here. It can continue with the status quo (which is obviously not working); or, it can make the hard choices and deal with the problem directly and openly.

      1) We need to identify and improve those aspects of society (i.e. societal stresses on individuals) which are triggering and/or exacerbating mental health issues.
      2) We need better diagnosis and treatment of mental health issues as a preemptive measure.
      3) We need more effective gun control policies specifically regarding assault weapons and other firearms designed for rapid, mass shooting.

      Liked by 6 people

      1. Robert, YES, YES, and YES!!!! I triple like your comment. And I believe we each have the power to take small steps towards these goals, whether marching for awareness, speaking with our legislators, donating towards causes, and even providing personal assistance to parents or children who are struggling. I include myself in this call to action, and have taken several small steps this week. Together, we can make a positive change.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. @Robert – While I agree with your action plan as something that should be done, I feel like you’re saying that we’re not already implementing those action plans. Granted, I guess that you’re saying that we need to do more of those things.

        While I do get the overall point about using the word evil and what it means to certain people, I don’t agree that it entirely removes the societal responsibility to control the so-called-evil of individuals. I guess it’s just the nature of language – that people process the same words in different ways. Additionally, I feel like your comment also understates the individual responsibility of a person committing such an act. I think it’s both societal and individual responsibility and I think it’s good to use language to point to both. Again, perhaps you’re just saying that we need “more” of the societal responsibility language, but that’s not exactly what I got from your comment.

        Like I said, I think the action plan you outlined is fair to pursue (as long as you recognize that those things are happening already). Thanks for your reply ^_^

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      3. Dylan, do we or do we not have a serious problem of gun violence and mass shootings in America? It’s plainly evident that we do, and the problem appears to be getting worse. The status quo isn’t working by any stretch of the imagination. We must do better.

        Make no mistake, this is a societal problem that requires socially implemented solutions. Individual responsibility? I could rattle off a long list of deranged mass shooters in recent years who all failed in that regard. We need to look closely at what is driving the psychology of these perpetrators as well as keeping them from getting their hands on powerful firearms.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. @Robert. I don’t think I’m disagreeing with you. It is a problem. But the things you’re suggesting have already been done and are currently being done – it’s not novel. Mental health treatment is not magic either – you can’t predict behaviors and you can’t restrict rights just because someone could do something (Minority Report, eh?). Progress has been made in all of the areas you’ve described, but again, none of it is a wave of the magic wand.

        This is why I assumed you just meant we need to do those things “more”, which may be. I still am getting a vibe that you’re evading personal responsibility. Again, I’m not saying that there is no social responsibility, but please don’t say this guy has no personal responsibility for his actions.

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      5. No magic wand is needed. All we need do is learn from our history. A few decades ago, America’s schools were the envy of the world and children weren’t threatened by madmen with assault weapons. High school graduates could earn a good living in trade industries, and college grads could expect to do even better. Families were more financially secure, and marriages were more stable. The loss of this middle class prosperity is a major factor in today’s societal dysfunctions.

        There’s a direct cause and effect relationship here. Children raised in broken homes, abused by over-stressed parents struggling to survive, and facing uncertain futures without much economic opportunity, is a recipe for mental health problems. Even children who are a little more fortunate will be exposed to and may internalize the misery outside their own family. Societies devolve in this way as the ramifications of economic hardship spread like a disease. This societal problem overshadows individual responsibility purely by scale.

        The solutions I suggested earlier are not being done. America’s political and business class are not alleviating the economic stress now facing a large portion of the populace. Mental health professionals are working within tight budgetary constraints which limits their reach, and law enforcement is likewise overburdened and overextended. Meanwhile, the NRA and conservative politicians are insanely opposed to even the most sensible form of gun control.

        This certainly isn’t “progress,” Dylan.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. @Robert, The solutions you’ve suggested which are as follows

        “1) We need to identify and improve those aspects of society (i.e. societal stresses on individuals) which are triggering and/or exacerbating mental health issues.
        2) We need better diagnosis and treatment of mental health issues as a preemptive measure.
        3) We need more effective gun control policies specifically regarding assault weapons and other firearms designed for rapid, mass shooting.”

        Now I’ll grant you that 3) has not had much progress in the past 15 years. I could be wrong, but I don’t know of any legislation to regulate ARs in that timeframe.

        However, there continues to be work being done as described by you in the mental health field. It would be hard to say that we know less about mental health (both regarding causes and triggers) than we did 15 years ago. Should we know more? I think that’s a silly question. How can we know if we could have known more? Research (especially in the nebulous field of mental health) is trial and error. I think it’s unreasonable to try to raise activism for “Better mental health diagnosis” when there’s no realistic benchmark to compare it to.

        Progress is a continuum, don’t make it binary.

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      7. In 1994, Congress and President Clinton enacted a law banning new purchases of 18 specific models of military style firearms including assault weapons. The ban expired in 2004 because the Republican majority refused to reauthorize it. During that 10 year period, both the incidence and number of fatalities from gun massacres dropped significantly – see: https://www.seattletimes.com/nation-world/analysis-the-real-reason-congress-banned-assault-weapons-in-1994-and-why-it-worked/

        Progress isn’t a continuum. It generally trends upwards with many peaks and valleys, but there is no guarantee that it won’t regress. It is up to us, as citizens, to recognize and respond to times of regression… like now.

        Liked by 2 people

      8. What I meant is that we can progress in some areas, but not necessarily be progressing in others, sorry that wasn’t clear.

        Again, I recognize the content of the post you just cited and it doesn’t contradict anything I’ve said. I just don’t see how we’re regressing with Mental Health treatment and care as I understand you are saying. I think we’ve made slow, yet marked improvements in how we treat mental health and individuals who suffer from severe mental illness.

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      9. I agree that mental health knowledge has progressed, but that wasn’t my point. My comments were directed towards the application of said knowledge; specifically, regarding its funding constraints.

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      10. How was the shooter’s mental health issues ignored? He was under treatment for depression, was on medication, and saw a therapist regularly. Are you suggesting there was something more that could have been done?

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      11. Yes. From: https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/mental-health-agency-examined-cruz-in-2016-didnt-hospitalize-him/ar-BBJj4q4

        “A 2016 mental health report said that crisis workers from a South Florida mental health facility were called to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School to hold alleged Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz for a psychiatric evaluation, but ultimately decided against hospitalizing him.

        Henderson Behavioral Health was called under the Baker Act to temporarily commit Cruz for an involuntary psychiatric exam in November 2016, but its health professionals chose not to do so after visiting with him at the school, according to a 2016 Florida Department of Children and Families investigative report obtained by NBC News.

        Under the Baker Act, individuals can be detained against their will for up to 72 hours. Those 17 and younger can be held for 12 hours.”

        […]

        “A counselor at the school told the Florida Department of Children and Families investigators that a professional from the mental health facility had visited Cruz and ‘found him to be stable enough [to] not be hospitalized.’ The school counselor expressed concern with the department, according to the report, and said she and her staff wanted to ‘ensure that the assessment of Henderson was not premature.'”

        And, from: https://www.msn.com/en-us/health/medical/tipster-told-fbi-florida-shooting-suspect-going-to-explode/vp-BBJvziP

        “The person who called an FBI tip line in January said Nikolas Cruz made increasingly alarming statements after his mother died last fall, adding, ‘I know he’s, he’s going to explode.’ The FBI said last week that the information from the call was never passed along to agents in Miami ‘where appropriate investigative steps would have been taken.’ A transcript of the January 5 call, obtained by NBC News on Friday, revealed that the female caller, described by the FBI only as a person close to Cruz, never said that he planned to shoot up a school. “

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      12. Okay, so by these stories, mental health professionals weren’t able to hold the alleged shooter for psychiatric care or for violations of criminal law. Considering that none of these people could tell the future, what else are you suggesting could have been done to stop him?

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  9. What I got from Robert’s comment echoes my general opinion. I don’t think (maybe I’m wrong) that his final three points were related to this particular shooting, but to the general crisis facing our nation. He pointed out concrete ways we can address these crises, outside of the “spiritual” way of labeling and addressing them, which is far too common.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m using the shooting as an example of why his points aren’t concrete. His first point assumes that the alleged shooter’s actions were directly related to his mental illness. Furthermore, all the triggers that the media’s reported on are shared by other high school students that don’t shoot up schools. Effectively, he’s arguing that teenagers need to be scrutinized for being teenagers.

      His second point also wouldn’t have done anything to stop the alleged shooter from doing what he did. He was in the mental health system. He complied with treatment. He took his medications. He hid his intentions from all of those people. Mental health professionals can’t read minds.

      And his third point sounds nice, but it doesn’t argue for anything specific. What qualifies as a weapon designed for rapid, mass shooting? Technically the AR-15 doesn’t qualify as an assault weapon because it doesn’t have an automatic fire setting, so is he talking about expanding the definition of assault weapons?

      The reason why I’m being picky here is that blaming mental illness and mental health professionals is easier to do than to actually figure out how the system works in practice. Bottom line is that the kid who did the shooting kept his mouth mostly shut when it came to planning his crime. All the so-called red flags people claim he raised can be attributed to many different teenagers across the country.

      Sometimes people plan awful crimes, and they’re able to hide their terrible designs from everyone who’s supposed to be looking.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Sirius, I do see your point. But I can’t help but think that something is amiss with our gun laws when someone who has had the police called on them 30 times and has posted online threats of violence, is able to walk into a store and walk out with a gun. This was not an average teenager’s level of anxiety and misbehavior. His own mother was afraid of him. From my perspective, we’ve got technology that datamines each of us 24-7. Amazon knows when I’m “thinking” about buying a new blender by analyzing my online behavior, and targets ads accordingly. But see, there is money directed at that. We have the technology, the resources, the people power and the intelligence to tackle this problem. The NRA has the money. But we have the power to tackle that, as a nation, by making our voices heard. Already, several large corporations are cutting ties with the NRA because they don’t want to lose their customers. This is how things get done. It’s tedious. And yes, it’s tricky. It’s not all black and white. But the people still have power in this country, if we don’t relinquish it to rich corporations.

        I know your comment focusses primarily on mental health stigmas. I agree that most people with mental health issues wouldn’t commit a crime. But I don’t see how having more resources available to them or more awareness would harm anyone in this demographic. When it became known that severe postpardum depression could lead to violence or suidice, America didn’t suddenly label all pregnant women walking guns. What it did do was allow all of us access to information that we desperately wanted. Who wouldn’t want to have the resources and awareness to spot and prevent even themselves from commiting an irreversible act of violence?

        Liked by 2 people

      2. I’m not disputing that there’s something wrong with gun laws. And really, we’re not just talking about more resources for the mentally ill. We’re talking about using our mental health system to physically restrain people who might be violent. And it’s just as dangerous as labeling people as evil.

        Even taking the 30+ times the alleged shooter had the cops called on him into account, there was nothing they could do without changing the law to make his behavior a crime. If you’re talking about doing it just from the mental health side, you’re talking about giving people the capacity to lock others up for the flimsiest of reasons.

        The closest thing to action on this doesn’t even involve mental health. If it was illegal to threaten to shoot up your school, he could have been stopped. From a legal standpoint, that’s pretty hard to do without running afoul of free speech concerns.

        Then, with regards to computer searches and behavior, we’re talking about letting government put such algorithms in place and having access to them. Privacy concerns alone would be staggering. This is because in order to make it useful, it would have to be used against as many people as possible.

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      3. SB, all your points are valid and well-made. So … what’s the solution? I don’t think anyone can deny that something has to change. But what? This is what so many of us are struggling over.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. It requires looking at what can realistically be policed. One thing is licensing of gun owners and registering firearms like we require cars to be registered. The shooter at Parkland didn’t even need a permit to possess or purchase that AR-15.

        If he tried to buy a handgun, he would have needed a permit. And you can attach public safety requirements to the permitting process, as well as requiring permits to be valid in order to legally buy a firearm. So, for example, you could theoretically deny a permit due to age or other things.

        Of course, I have to throw out the caveat that such a law might not pass constitutional scrutiny because of the Second Amendment. But theoretically at least, requiring a person buying a long arm to have a permit would have stopped Parkland from happening, provided the permitting process was sound. None of it requires showing a history of mental illness, finding a mental illness diagnosis, or otherwise specifically picking on anyone’s mental illness.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. I totally agree with your suggestion on age restrictions, but I also feel there needs to be some kind of mental health checks. (As you probably know, tRumpsky overturned an Obama gun regulation that prevented certain individuals with mental health conditions from buying firearms.)

        But beyond all this, what is even more important is that EVERY state has the same regulations in place (right now there isn’t even any uniformity in handgun purchase requirements!) . As the NY Times pointed out in a 2016 article, there are loopholes in background checks, variations in state laws, and incomplete record-sharing — all of which leaves openings for people with mental illness to purchase guns.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. Mental health checks for what, Nan? Angry teenager? Disgruntled student? What are you suggesting happens when someone gets a mental health diagnosis? At what threshold is someone going to get their rights taken from them?

        It’s super easy to just pick on the mentally ill and feel you’re accomplishing something. It might even have prevented shootings like the one in Arizona with Gabby Giffords, or the guy in Colorado who shot up that movie theater. But the big ones – Parkland, Las Vegas, Texas, and San Bernardino – those are less clear. Yeah, the guy in Parkland had a diagnosis, but there’s still no evidence that it caused his criminal acts. You’re talking about regulating something unrelated and hoping it might do something productive.

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      7. OK … so I’ll go along with your thinking. But I then must ask … what’s your proposal for some kind of solution? Regulating gun purchases is, of course, the SOP, but as most of us know, the likelihood of this happening is slim to none. So then what?

        Liked by 1 person

      8. OK — here’s my answer.

        Mental health checks to see if a person has any kind of history of disruptive behavior, threats against others, uncontrollable anger issues, believes others are plotting against him/her, etc.

        Perhaps you’re correct that “there’s still no evidence that it caused his criminal acts.” But if a mental health professional saw/diagnosed any of the above (or other unusual or unstable) symptoms, and put that into a report that not just “could be” but would be available to gun dealers, it seems to me that would be a step in the right direction.

        Obviously, so long as there are individuals who scream “Second Amendment” rights, we will never totally end senseless killings. But IMO, we simply must take some kind of steps … even if we have to change them along the way. Can you agree?

        Liked by 1 person

      9. I agree steps have to get taken, but the elephant in the room is the 2d Amendment. If it’s not worth changing to save lives, then maybe not enough people have died yet. For me, my patience with keeping it sacrosanct wanes with every victim that piles up.

        And yeah, if you prohibited the sale, transfer, and manufacture of any weapon capable of carrying out a mass shooting, we wouldn’t need to create Byzantine gun law structures or pick on specific subgroups in our society. It would make it simple and straightforward, just like every international person keeps telling us here in the States. People would be safe, because these weapons would be really freaking rare.

        I get that not everybody’s with me on this, and I hope I’m wrong. But if I’m right, more people are going to die because nobody’s willing to stand up for the obvious solution. And that makes me sad for people.

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      10. I, for one, am with you. I think gun legislation is the number one solution. If I have even the smallest voice in the matter, I will support the ban of any and all mass shooting weaponry. I have signed lots of petitions over the last two weeks, hopefully ones that will impact the financial status of the NRA and reach the eyes of governing officials. Unquestionably, I will be marching on March 24th. 🙂

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      11. You caught me replying to your other comment.

        I understand that I’m being quite terse and direct here (it’s more from old habits than from wanting to be curt with anyone). I’m not actually disagreeing with much said here; I am trying to illustrate how difficult it is to ask for change. The points I bring up would get brought up in the public and when the NRA would challenge such a law. They’re organized, and they won’t go down without a fight. They’ll even advocate for the rights of the mentally ill if it means they can sell a firearm.

        Sadly, there are no demonstrations close enough that I can attend. I live in a very red state, where people think their handguns could stop the U.S. military.

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      12. I thank you for your input. I also think that none of us are really in disagreement. I feel like we’re sitting in my virtual living room, having a great conversation. It kind of makes me wish you were all here in person. (And that we had wine, and really good cheese.) It’s quite an informative conversation. I truly appreciate it!!

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      13. Oh, I do miss my days of wild youth, when we Northern Illinoisers would cross the WI border to get booze (because we qualified as adults, back then, 20 miles north of us.) All that to say, Yes. Uniformity in state laws would be a truly necessary component. Otherwise, all we’ve done is gone from a solution, to a mere road trip.

        Liked by 1 person

      14. I’m not saying we would lock people up. Just not sell them guns. And as far as the algorithms….I’m quite sure they are already in place and being used daily for the purpose of selling us things. I brought it up because the same way Google can scan my email, listen to my Alexa, watch my Google Maps to see where I’m going, figure out what I’m sharing on Facebook and where my last meal was (my cell phone always asks me about dinner, when I leave a restaurant), they can set something up for red flags to prevent gun purchases. Our whole lives are already online. If you don’t think they are….well, they are. 🙂 But I’m hearing what you’re saying and I’m not in dissagreement with the points you’re making. Just stating my own followup thoughts as we go. Thanks so much for adding to this very needed conversation.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Yes, my initial comment was a general one addressing the worsening trend of mass shootings in America and not specifically regarding the recent massacre in Florida.

      However, Sirius Bizinus prefers to see specificity where none was intended or needed. Apparently, by reading the replies to Nan, S.B. wants to discredit the idea that anything substantive can or should be done about this crisis. Why, I wonder.

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      1. “S.B. wants to discredit the idea that anything substantive can or should be done about this crisis. Why, I wonder.”

        SB’s not saying that at all – they’re just saying that the ideas being promoted are bad ones. Saying something is a bad idea without coming up with an alternative is not without value. It may be frustrating to those promoting the ideas because of feeling “at least I’m doing something,” but doing something worthless or harmful isn’t actually more valuable than pointing out that actions could be worthless or harmful.

        I’m kinda sorry to jump in, but I’ve been following SB’s posts in this thread and feel they are on point with every post they’ve made.

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      2. @ Dylan Black and SB. Please continue jumping in. That’s what this is all about. It’s a conversation. I feel like until we listen to people expressing their opinions at a grass roots level (like we’re doing here) it will be impossible to come up with feasible solutions. And when I jump in, I am usually just piggybacking on something you guys said, or probing for more details. I’m no expert on the subject matter we’re discussing. I’m happy to be hearing different sides of the issue!

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  10. To me there are so many very valid reasons and each one is also hard to predict and hard to follow up on and treat.
    Mental illness, dysfunctional family life sometimes to the extreme, peer pressure, bullying, violent video games and movies and TV, underpaid teachers, pressure to fit in driven by social media, drugs, alcohol , genetic makeup, and as Robert says the squeezing of the middle class and a poor job market for the families, too much leisure time and I could go on. But the point is how do you really fix a problem with so many causes and causes that will effect each person differently?

    So you then, to start, must fix the gun control laws and security not only in schools but other public places as well. But this is a temporary fix only, but a necessary one.

    But the willingness to fix all of this has to be there with all of us and most definitely the politicians. And how do you fix Republicans that have been bought by the NRA and religious nuts who think god granted them gun rights and put Trump in as president. And who believe there is no merit to all the above causes, but that it’s just evil and the devil made them do it. Talk about mental illness!

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Oh my Danica, another fantastic article.

    You are so right about the use of words… devil, d plus evil…must be a reason behind that too. In my native weapon is spelled wapen. Monkeys = apen. W plus apen…No offense to the monkeys (apen), but I think people who are such fans of wapens (weapons) must be apen (monkeys).

    ‘When we muddle truth’…I think this it the unsolvable issue…Since we all have so many different views, opinions, beliefs of what ‘truth’ is. However, I also believe we all know the difference between right and wrong, with regard to this general speaking. Nelson Mandela said it once already; if hate can be taught, love can be taught too.
    So yes, we all (no matter who you are, from housewife till CEO) should take our responsibility.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. I was raised Catholic. A big part of my psychosis last year is everything you described here and why I also just stopped listening to the illogical noise. I ultimately heard demons on the radio and stuff and I think a big part was me finally doing the things I wanted to do: yoga,meditation; and studying Buddhism. Buddhism drew me in because it’s not a religion, it’s a philosophy, and I’m the only one causing my own suffering hahahaha

    The devil card in tarot is not a bad card tho most think it is. It’s connecting to your passions and allowing for all good things in moderation. A lot of people get upset with that card because of the associations.

    I loved this post. You write so much like me!!!!we must be writing sisters from another mister hahahaha

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I noticed the same thing! And I can completely relate to overbearing religious thoughts becoming almost like a psychosis. I have had those experiences of imagining that things were “demon filled” and yada yada. Someone very close to me, who was also raised Catholic, has had struggles all of her life. It’s hard to discern reality from fiction when you’re being taught stories that are legitimately insane, and being told you will suffer eternally if you don’t accept them as truths. A confusing message, especially to children.

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